ORLANDO — Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is looking for more from Mehmet Okur.
"He's gotten off to kind of slow starts," Sloan said of his starting center. "I think that's hurt him a little bit. And part of it is we try to get the ball inside, and he's caught on the outside playing out there a little bit more than usual. We haven't posted him up maybe as much as he should be."
Okur, an NBA All-Star in 2007, averaged 17.0 points per game last season and had 31 games in which he scored 20 or more points — including 10 in his first 23 games of the season.
This season, he is averaging 12.8 points — and has just one game with 20 or more, in his second game vs. Houston, in 23 outings.
"I think he's got to work harder to be able to run the floor a little bit better and get a chance to get some better looks at the basket," Sloan said, "because when we run 'power,' which we do a great deal of the time, he's the guy on the perimeter, and sometimes I think he can probably take that (post) spot if he put more into it."
Part of Okur's struggles, Sloan agreed, also is the power forward Carlos Boozer's presence and production.
Boozer missed 45 games last season, giving Okur ample scoring opportunities.
But this season Boozer hasn't missed a game and is averaging a team-high 19.9 points (up from 16.2 when he did play last season) and has 17 games already with 20 or more.
"That has something to do with it, obviously," Sloan said.
"But (Okur) needs to get some better looks at the basket. When we move the basketball, he gets opportunities."
HALF NELSON: After conflicting reports last week, the latest has the Orlando Sentinel reporting after Sunday's practice that, barring "excessive swelling" today, All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson will play limited minutes (likely off the bench) tonight.
It would be his first game following Nov. 18 knee surgery to remove a bone spur.
If he does play, Nelson will so with sky-high confidence.
According to the Sentinel: "Reminded that he picked a challenging week to return (with) Utah's Deron Williams, Houston's Aaron Brooks and Boston's Rajon Rondo in line, Nelson responded, 'Brooks, Rondo and Williams also have me. I'm not being cocky, but it's the truth. It wasn't like I was in practice not being aggressive. I'm trying to come back and be myself.' "
KORVER UPDATE: The Jazz are calling swingman Kyle Korver a "game-time" decision for tonight.
But after he declared himself unable to play in Saturday's second half vs. Charlotte because his surgically repaired left knee was causing so much pain it hurt to shoot a standing 3-pointer, teammates figured it may be a while before Korver returns.
"We went from, like, two wing players to three and then to five, six, and now back down," C.J. Miles said.
Sloan wasn't sure if Korver would play the last two games of a five-game trip.
"It's the same ol' story," he said. "Once they walk off the bench, I lose contact with them."
BIG GAMES: After failing to win more than two games on any of their three five-game Eastern swings last season, the Jazz can come home with a winning record on their current trip by beating Orlando tonight or Miami on Wednesday.
"It would be a great trip for us," Williams said.
"It would be a terrific thing for us, because the last couple weeks, every game's a tough game for us," Sloan added. "There's no gimmies. We've proven we can be beaten by any of the teams that are out there."17 comments on this story
AND FINALLY: After beating Charlotte, the Jazz have three wins in the second games of back-to-back sets this season — including two on the road.
That's as many back-half wins as they had in 21 opportunities last season, and double what they had on the road last season.
"Playing together — I think that's helped us a great deal," Sloan said when asked about the improvement. "But we've still got a young team, and there's a lot of stuff they have to learn."
"I think it's bouncing back, being stronger mentally, tougher mentally," Williams added. "Because that's a lot of what it is — just telling yourself you're not tired."